Having DNF’d in the past two races, Fernando Alonso’s fantastic Formula 1 career looks in danger of ending in a whimper rather than a bang as he prepares to move away from the sport at the end of the year. But the McLaren driver maintains that it’s not a lack of enjoyment from racing – or even a lack of a ride in a top team – that’s behind his desire to take on new challenges.
Alonso announced in August that he would step away from Formula 1 after the 2018 Abu Dhabi season finale, with many believing that the Spaniard would now focus on going on the hunt for the final jewel in his triple crown, namely winning the Indianapolis 500 (having already won the Monaco Grand Prix – twice – and the Le mans 24 Hours earlier this year).
But having retired from the Mexican Grand Prix – after a piece of Esteban Ocon’s front wing got wedged under his McLaren – Alonso revealed that he was still deriving pleasure from racing in F1, even if he wasn’t competing for wins or titles.
“I enjoy, definitely, I enjoy,” he said. “Obviously it has been unlucky, but as long as it’s not your mistake, where maybe you take more time to analyse and digest. But the last two races, one car hits you from behind and in this race, [a piece of debris] hits your car and makes you retire. So it’s one in a million possibilities… but sometimes it happens to other cars and you benefit, so let’s see if the last two races, we can see the chequered flag and have a bit of luck.”
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Alonso also rubbished suggestions that he was leaving Formula 1 because he couldn’t get a drive with a top team.
“No, I could have a competitive car,” Alonso said. “I’m not stopping because I don’t have a competitive car… I’m stopping because I did everything I wanted in Formula 1. I arrived in Formula 1, I won Grands Prix in Formula 1, I won world championships in Formula 1, I break records in Formula 1. I drove for McLaren, for Renault, for Ferrari. [I’m 37] and I cannot do more in Formula 1. All the things that I dream in Formula 1 are done. There are new things in motorsport that are bigger than Formula 1.
“I stop because I want, not because I’ve been forced to stop… I think I can be a better driver, a more compete driver and better for my career outside of Formula 1 because this chapter is already done, with a lot of success in my opinion.”
Asked if he felt he was still respected by drivers and members of the paddock, Alonso replied: “I’ve been always respected and highly rated.
“I had the respect from all the team principals, the teams, I raced for the best manufacturers, I’ve been paid a lot more than when I was in go-karts thinking what was my salary in the future. I have a wonderful life.”
Despite his forthrightness on his move away from F1, the video Alonso posted on his Twitter account in August to announce he was leaving included some ambiguous wording about whether or not he would consider returning to Formula 1 in the future – with some believing that a more competitive McLaren car or a ride with another top team could be enough to entice Alonso back to the sport. And three months on, it was still a possibility the Spaniard was not ruling out…
“Yeah, maybe it’s a possibility,” he said. “I don’t exclude that.”
Alonso’s full plans for 2019 are still to be announced, although he’s set to compete in the second half of the World Endurance Championship for Toyota, and while he’s also not ruled out another one-off attempt at the Indy 500 that he tried in 2017 – a full IndyCar season is definitely not on the cards. Before then, though, Alonso still has the Brazilian and Abu Dhabi Grands Prix to try and end his Formula 1 career – or this chapter of it, at least – on a high.